Oak Island and the Money Pit have been the source of dozens of stories involving lost treasures and have captured the imaginations of hundreds of treasure hunters, right up to and including Rick and Marty Lagina from The Curse of Oak Island.
It’s thought any number of priceless artefacts or valuable treasures could potentially be hidden on the island off Canada’s Nova Scotia coast.
As excitement ramps up around History’s hit series returning for Season 5, we take a look at some of the most common theories regards just what could be lying beneath Oak Island’s surface.
Lost treasure of the Knights Templar
The Knights Templar, the Order of Solomon’s Temple first rose in power after the First Crusade way back in the 11th century. They were created to protect pilgrims making the journey to the Holy Land, which had only recently been captured by Christian forces.
This unique position saw their services much in demand and their power grew over the next 200 years. They even set up a sort of early banking system where pilgrims could deposit valuables in their home countries in return for notes of credit, which could then be exchanged for cash at Templar-run locations as they made their pilgrimages — meaning they could travel safely without valuable items.
However, things went south for the order when they became more exposed following the end of the crusades. It was then that King Philip IV of France had hundreds of members arrested and many burned at the stake. He wanted to reduce their power and cancel his own debts to them.
The chaotic end of the order gave rise to many legends and rumors about the treasure and wealth they had acquired over the years, including the Copper Scroll of the Qumran Essenes, the Holy Grail and the Ark of the Covenant.
Some have suggested that the Templars fled Europe on a fleet of ships, using the old Viking sea routes to reach the New World. They theorise that this could have led them to Oak Island and to perhaps constructing the Money Pit in order to conceal their most precious relics and treasures from the greedy hands of the king of France.
Last season Rick and Marty did find a rock carved with what could have been a triangle with the all-seeing eye — the Eye of Providence — carved in it.
This is something many people associate with the Templars, though in actual fact it’s only really seen in the iconography of the Freemasons, who are latterly associated with the order.
What could the Templar treasure be?
The treasure mentioned in the Copper Scroll of the Qumran Essenes
The Copper Scroll is one of the Dead Sea Scrolls, found in a cave near Khirbet Qumran, in the West Bank. It’s unusual in that unlike the other scrolls found in the area it is written not on parchment but on copper. The content is also unusual as it lists a series of locations where it says various amounts of gold and silver are buried.
The scroll is about 2,000 years old and the list of treasure included would amount to millions in today’s money, though there is some debate as to whether it is a fiction and there are various theories about where the treasure it mentions could be from.
Some people have theorised that some of the treasures could have been discovered by the Templars and then hidden on Oak Island.
The Ark of the Covenant
Anyone who’s seen Indiana Jones will know the Ark is one of the most famous objects from the Old Testament. Also known as the Ark of the Testimony, it is a golden-bound wooden chest that is said in the Book of Exodus to contain the tablets where the Ten Commandments are written.
Moses is said to have been told by God how to construct the Ark and after he created it the Israelites are said to have carried it during their time in the desert and to have possessed great power.
Rumors and legends of the Ark’s location are too many to list but the Templars are said by some to have taken it from a dig at Temple Mount and then to Scotland and possibly on to Oak Island.
The Holy Grail
Like the Ark, The Holy Grail or Holy Chalice is a sacred religious object and is said to have been the drinking vessel used by Jesus during the Last Supper.
In the Bible the cup or drinking vessel is not mentioned outside of the actual Last Supper, where it simply states “The table was not of silver, the chalice was not of gold…”.
However, later stories in the medieval period added special abilities to the grail — including providing eternal youth and infinite sustenance — and some have suggested these tales blended local Celtic myths with the biblical cup.
If the Templars managed to find the grail then some have said they might have hidden it on Oak Island.
The commune of Rennes-le-Château has a long history dating back to its time as a prehistoric encampment of some sort. Later the Romans built some structures at the site and at some point the Visigoths also lived in the area, though there is some dispute as to the size of their settlement.
By the 11th century the Counts of Toulouse controlled the area and they built a castle in the town around 1002. Thereafter the town’s history progressed like that of hundreds like it in France.
It was not until Bérenger Saunièr became the local priest in the 19th century that things started to get interesting. He took over the church and made lots of renovations to the decrepit structure.
He began spending vast sums on some fairly elaborate additions to the church and he soon raised the ire of the local bishop amongst others. He was investigated and seemed unable to account for all the spending he claimed to have done with money raised from donors.
Eventually he was suspended from the priesthood and was unable to get reinstated as he could not afford to pay back the monies that the church authorities said he’d misappropriated.
Saunièr ended his life in relative poverty but it was after his death that he became famous.
In the 1950s rumors began to circulate that Saunièr had discovered some documents hidden within the pillars of the old church and that they concerned the treasure of former Queen of France Blanche of Castile. The theory was that this treasure was the source of the wealth he used to fund the church renovations and make himself rich.
The press picked up on the story and soon numerous treasure hunters started investigating the case. It also inspired several writers to include the story of Saunièr as a character in their books, the most famous being the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail — which later inspired best-selling author Dan Brown to pen The Da Vinci Code.
These stories of fraud and lost treasure coupled with the Templars’ former presence in the area seem to have fuelled stories of them having brought a lot of wealth to Rennes-le-Château, and then possibly moving some of it to Oak Island, with some of the rest being found by Saunièr.
The menorah from the Second Temple of Jerusalem
The menorah is an ancient Hebrew lamp-stand described in the Bible as having six branches and seven lamps. It is said to have been fashioned from pure gold and used by Moses whilst the Israelites were in the wilderness and later in the Second Temple of Jerusalem.
There have been a few notable depictions of the menorah including in a frieze on the Arch of Titus, which celebrates his destruction of Jerusalem in 70 CE. Another carving was found in the ruins of a synagogue dating back to the same time, though it looked quite different from the one in the arch.
The object was said to have been taken to Rome and placed in the Temple of Peace before it was possibly looted by the Vandals when they sacked the Eternal City in 455 CE. They most likely took it to their capital in Carthage and from then it’s thought the Byzantines took it to Constantinople.
Its fate after that is murky, but it’s possible the Persians destroyed it in 614.
Some novels in more recent years have suggested the Templars might have acquired it in Constantinople and then it could have made its way to Oak Island along with the rest of their treasures.
Captain Kidd’s Treasure
Captain William Kidd was a 17th century Scottish sailor who rose to fame during the war between England and France.
By the time he became a captain, Kidd had traveled widely and gained extensive experience at sea sailing in the Caribbean and up the east coast of America.
Early on he was seen as a bit of a rebel and had refused to allow the Royal Navy to press men into service, resulting in some officers calling him a pirate.
There were also stories of his crew’s brutality when they took over enemy vessels, though there are others saying Kidd tried hard to keep a tight and civil ship. However, he was not officially branded a pirate until he took a ship in the the Indian Ocean.
The Quedagh Merchant was on its return journey from Surat in India to Bengal in 1697 when it was captured by Kidd. The ship, which contained precious cargo, was under French colors but had an English captain and when Kidd realised this he tried to persuade his crew to release the ship.
Unfortunately his crew would not relent and instead he began a journey with the ship to New York by the way of Madagascar then Anguilla in the Caribbean. However, he then changed his plan and left the ship — which he had renamed Adventure Prize — in a lagoon on the island of Santa Catalina and continued to the colonial city.
There he was arrested but he refused to reveal the location of the captured prize. Ultimately he was sent to England where his presence became political and Kidd was charged with piracy on the high seas and murder.
Despite several letters to the king requesting clemency, Kidd was found guilty and hanged at Execution Dock in London. During the execution the rope snapped and he had to be hanged again, his body was then gibbeted — hung from the gallows — for three years as a warning to other pirates.
Ever since his death and the disappearance of the captured ship, treasure hunters across the world have been looking for Kidd’s treasure, some of which was said to have been hidden.
This is in part fuelled by the discovery at the time of treasure hidden on Long Island, which was actually sent back to England as evidence against Kidd at his trial.
The prize ship was lost until December 2007 when the wreck of the Quedagh Merchant/Adventure Prize was found just 100 yards off the coast of Catalina Island in the Dominican Republic.
The ship was in shallow water and identification was confirmed through examination of the 26 cannons found on board.
Is it possible that before his capture Kidd hid some of his treasure on Oak Island?
What could Captain Kidd’s Treasure be?
The Quedagh Merchant had a full manifest and had exchanged goods in Bengal when Kidd captured it on the return journey.
Their cotton was exchanged for 1,200 bundles of cloth, 1,400 bags of brown sugar, 84 bales of raw silk and 80 chests of opium.
However, Kidd later sold much of the cargo for gold before heading to Madagascar.
The Vikings explored large parts of North America, but evidence of their constructions and settlements is limited. If they built something as elaborate as the Money Pit then it’s likely that other archeological evidence of their long-term stay would be present nearby.
However, it is not impossible that they did visit and perhaps even bury some treasure — an act that was quite common at the time, especially during periods of unrest.
What could the Viking treasure be?
If there is any Viking treasure then it is likely to be silver, amber or gold items. They used armbands made of precious metals as currency and these were often buried in hoards, as were precious adornments from swords and other jewellery pieces.
Blackbeard’s Pirate Treasure
Edward Teach, better known as Blackbeard, was an English pirate who patrolled the seas around the West Indies and the eastern coast of the American colonies in the late 17th and early 18th centuries.
He was famous for his terrifying appearance and the fear he inspired in those whom he was hunting. However, Teach was by all accounts a clever man and used his reputation rather than actual acts of brutality to get what he wanted.
There are few accounts of him brutalising either his crew or his captives and he is said to have captained his pirate ships through consent not force.
He died in battle in 1718 after the Governor of Virginia sent troops to arrest him, but his story and the myths around him only grew after his death.
There is nothing concrete linking Blackbeard to Oak Island but he did sail the seas to the south of the island so could have conceivably visited it.
What would Blackbeard’s Treasure be?
Blackbeard’s treasure could be anything plundered from other ships including their cargo, but it is most likely that anything being buried would be of high value and not take up a huge volume, so you might imagine coins or jewels.
Sir Francis Bacon’s Manuscripts and Shakespeare
Sir Francies Bacon was a remarkable person by any accounts and rose through the political ranks of England from being an MP to being, at different times, both the Attorney General and Lord Chancellor of England.
He was a true polymath and is sometimes called the father of empiricism for his work on gaining scientific knowledge through observation and reasoning. His published works included significant titles in his three main areas of interest with science, religion and the law being his lifelong obsessions.
Bacon also had a lot to do with the exploration and establishment of the English colonies in North America. In particular he was instrumental in the setting up of the Carolinas, Virginia and Newfoundland, with this latter detail being his link to Oak Island.
Bacon died in 1626 of pneumonia aged 65, by which time he had been knighted and was also a Baron.
What would Sir Francis Bacon’s treasure be?
Any find would likely come in the form of manuscripts written by Bacon, which would fetch considerable sums at auction. Some people even think he was the true talent behind the works of William Shakespeare and Christopher Marlow, so there could even be some long-lost sonnets or works by the bard himself!
Sir Henry Morgan
Sir Henry Morgan was a Welsh sailor and privateer who lived between 1636 and 1688, becoming famous for his raids on the Spanish Main.
Operating out of Jamaica, Morgan would raid both the settlements and shipping on the Caribbean coast of Spain’s New World Empire. Using a letter of marque he was able to legally capture Spanish ships and made a fortune from the prize money gained from these seizures.
He used his cash to buy plantations on Jamaica and was even governor of the island at three different times. He was also knighted by English king Charles II and was given an annual salary for £600 by the Assembly of Jamaica.
Morgan died on 25 August 1688 and was given a state funeral, with an amnesty declared so that pirates and privateers could attend the service without being arrested.
In a final twist his grave was consumed by the sea after the 1692 earthquake shook Port Royal and sent most of the town into the sea.
Some have speculated that before his death he might have hidden some of his booty on Oak Island, a place far away from the conflict going on in the Gulf of Mexico.
What could Sir Henry Morgan’s treasure be?
Morgan was a wealthy man and if he did decide to hide some of his treasure away on Oak Island it would most likely have been in the form of compact and valuable objects like coins, gold or jewels.
Marie Antoinette’s Jewels
The legend of Marie Antoinette’s jewels stems from a story that during the French Revolution she gave most of her expensive jewels to her lady-in-waiting and told her to flee the country.
The woman is then said to have fled to Nova Scotia and, with the help of the French Navy, possibly built the Money Pit to house the jewels.
After the capture of Havana, Cuba, in 1762 the British are said by some researchers to have acquired a huge amount of loot. The story goes that they were going to transfer it to their base in Halifax, Nova Scotia, but instead buried it on Oak Island to ensure it did not fall into the hands of the enemy.
It has to be said the British did not stay in Cuba that long but they did stay long enough to open up its trade routes and revolutionised the economy, so quite why they’d send any treasure away at that time is not clear. They also tended to keep very detailed records of just about everything they found or seized.
Some treasure hunters have pointed to stories of a 16th Century Spanish galleon that was forced to stop at the island after suffering severe damage in a storm. It is said that the crew intended to return with another ship to reclaim their gold but never did.
Stories about Nazi gold are very common with numerous tales of large amounts of gold, cash and other treasures being dumped by them in places like Lake Toplitz in Austria or even in hidden underground bunkers. The Nazis certainly did loot many treasure during their reign of terror across Europe but its not clear just how many they hid away.
Could some Nazis escaping the collapse of the reich have found their way to Oak Island and hidden away some gold?
Samuel Ball’s Treasure
Samuel Ball was a remarkable man who lived on Oak Island and nearby for a large part of his life between 1971 and 1846. As a black man he faced many additional challenges whilst trying to set up his farming business, but still managed to thrive.
He bought up various parts of Oak Island and was said to have made a small fortune growing cabbages, indeed he ended up owning over 100 acres of land on the island and nearby mainland.
It was this buying up of land and his wealth that made some people believe he’d not made his money from cabbages at all, rather he’d discovered treasure on the island and then bought more of it so he could search more of the area.
Are we missing any treasures linked with Oak Island or the Money Pit, or could you improve this article? Let us know in the comments section below, or email us using the email address on our contact page.